We’ve all heard of them, they’ve been splattered across countless food labels, in diet books, on TV and online; but what is a superfood, really?
The Oxford Dictionary sites superfood as “a food considered especially nutritious or otherwise beneficial to health and well-being.” The Macmillan dictionary defines it as a food that is considered to be beneficial to your health and that may even help some medical conditions, and Wikipedia talks of a food containing high nutrient or phytochemical content that may be beneficial to health and is usually free from negative properties like saturated fat or contaminants.
Each of these definitions are broad and do not specify any particular property or nutrient. So really, there is no hard and fast rule for what constitutes a superfood. The term is generally used in marketing and advertising to promote a product in order to generate more sales. While most of these foods do in fact render health benefits, they are also largely commercialised, and overpriced.
For more information about the superfood illusion, check out this article by Choice, or Episode 6 of The Checkout TV.
Given this context, it’s safe to say that raw, natural, organic wholefoods – containing a variety of vitamins, minerals and enzymes can all be considered superfoods. Or simply, real food.
Apples, almonds, broccoli, cabbage, kale, oranges, lemons, linseeds, spinach, ginger, garlic, bananas, grapes, and many, many more foods all contain a variety of nutrients, and all have their place in our diet.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying don’t ever buy chia seeds or acai berries. What I am saying is, don’t get caught up in the hype and only focus on consuming said “superfoods”. What we should be focusing on is eating real, fresh, unrefined whole foods, grown locally and ethically, free from additives, preservatives, excess packaging and a long list of unrecognisable ingredients.
There’s a common misconception that eating healthily is expensive and boring. This can certainly ring true given the emphasis people place on superfoods. But there are so many ways that eating healthily can be exciting, and achieved on a budget!
1. Eating a high percentage of raw foods each day will boost your “superfood” intake tenfold. Raw food is considered particularly beneficial because the nutrients haven’t been compromised. While cooked foods still contain a percentage of nutrient density, vital enzymes are destroyed during cooking due to the exposure to high heat. By adding raw nuts, seeds, sprouts, greens and fruit to your salad or snacks, drinking smoothies packed with fruit and veggies, or even just slightly steaming your veg to soften for dinner rather than roasting or boiling, you will help your body absorb the maximum amount of nutrients mother nature intended!
2. Not all calories are created equal. People have way too many hang ups about calories. There are loads of articles online about why calorie counting doesn’t work, so I won’t rehash it all here (please google it for yourself), but when thinking about your next meal, instead of looking at the number on the side of a protein bar, think about how amazing, nourished and satisfied you’ll feel eating a giant fresh salad, a hearty bowl of soup or a grilled veggie and hommus wholewheat foccacia!
3. Spices are your friend. During the week, my lunch is pretty much a thrown together salad with whatever I have on hand. Generally, I can find some pretty tasty combos from the depths of my fridge, but sometimes it can look pretty bland – a grated carrot, some spinach, mushrooms and sprouts. I’m a huge advocate of using everything up and not letting things go to waste, but sometimes when the lunch options are looking bland, I look to the spice shelf to, well, spice things up. In some cultures this is referred to as a spice masala, but really it’s just a mixture of spices that add flavour to just about any dish. Spices are cheap, and they have a wealth of healing properties. Use them, and use them with reckless abandon.
Now, I bet none of you have ever heard of coriander seeds, cumin, garlic or ginger touted as a superfood. Be assured, each of these spices pack a powerhouse of health benefits…
To make your mix, add your favourite spices to a mortar and pestle and grind to a powder. If your prefer a nuttier, more intense flavour, heat the whole spices in a dry fry pan for a minute or so until they begin to pop and become fragrant.
My mix uses the below combination of spices, but this should really only be used as a guideline, you can easily swap in/out spices you prefer and play around until the flavours are right for you.
- Ginger: Aids digestion, clears sinuses, anti-imflammatory
- Garlic:Antibacterial, blood thinning, anti-allergenic, improves metabolism, lowers cholesterol
- Coriander seeds: Lowers blood sugar and stimulates secretion of insulin, lowers cholesterol, high phytonutrient content
- Cumin seeds: High in iron, manganese, calcium and magnesium, aids with digestion, anti-carcinogenic and detoxifying
- Turmeric: Improves digestions, boosts immunity, antioxidant, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, high in vitamins, protein and fiber
- Murray river salt flakes: Free from artificial additives and chemicals, high in natural minerals, magnesium and calcium
- Whole Peppercorns: High in manganese, vitamin K, iron, fiber and copper, improves digestion and promotes intestinal health
- Fennel seeds (optional): Used medicinally for heartburn, bloating, colic and bronchitis, increases flow of breast milk and promotes menstruation.